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Summary:

As an Apple TV owner, I typically find little reason to use different solutions to take media from my computer and view it on my television. That said, there are a number of products out there that may be able to give you what you want, […]

Apple TVAs an Apple TV owner, I typically find little reason to use different solutions to take media from my computer and view it on my television. That said, there are a number of products out there that may be able to give you what you want, in some cases without having to pay the $299 it takes to have an Apple TV. You decide.

D-Link 1. The D-Link Media Lounge streams music, videos and photos to any television with the help of an 802.11g network, and it can even handle Xvid. Unfortunately, the player won’t play native iTunes songs and can only support MP3, WAV, AIFF, WMA and Ogg Vorbis (which is a nice touch). But if you don’t mind the absence of iTunes support and you want a more advanced remote to drag audio and video back and forth, the $189.99 (direct) device may be a nice place to start.

Eva8000 2. The Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD connects to a home network via a wired or wireless connection and can stream movies, videos, music, Internet radio, and photos from a PC straight to your HDTV. Unlike the D-Link Media Lounge, the EVA8000 supports AAC files and sports an HDMI port for a solid HD experience. Its biggest issue? It only supports Windows and will not work on a Linux or Mac. If you ask me, it’s not worth the $349.99 direct price tag if I can’t use it with a non-Windows OS.

Zensonic z500 3. If you’re in the mood for something from a company you may not have heard of, one option is the Zensonic Z500 series. Sure, it may not be the best-looking device on the planet, but it supports a host of audio formats and has a nice collection of inputs on the back. Even better, it has a built-in DVD player in case you don’t want to waste time sending files over a wireless network. Unfortunately, the Zensonic Z500 is a bit difficult to find (it’s only available at one store in the U.S., Media West Distribution), but for a relatively cheap price of $199.99, it’s a nice competitor to the Apple TV.

Xbox 360 4. An Xbox 360 will also do the trick if you want to take media from one device to another. Of course, the main drawback with the Xbox 360 is the need to have a Windows box that’s equipped with Windows Media Center. But if you have a Media Center device and you’d like to play the Apple TV game, you may find this is the easiest way to go about it. By connecting the Xbox 360 to a network, it quickly interfaces with the Windows machine and will stream media to your TV in a matter of seconds. Is it as simple to use as the Apple TV? Yes. But unfortunately, the barriers to entry (mainly cost) are a bit too high for those on a budget. You can have the Xbox 360 at most major electronics retailers for $279.99 (core system) to $449.99 (Elite).

Mac Mini 5. Get yourself a Mac Mini if you don’t want to deal with an under-powered Apple TV. The Mac Mini can do everything your Apple TV can do as long as you have iTunes installed on it. And with the help of Front Row, it should work much better than the Apple TV. Installation is simple: plug it into your HDTV and use it as the monitor. Once you have your files on the computer, take out that handy Apple remote and find what you want. Although it’s a bit more expensive ($599 direct), it’s the best alternative to the Apple TV, hands down.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology journalist who covers everything from Google to HDTVs. He currently writes for over 15 popular technology publications, including CNET’s Digital Home, InformationWeek and PC World.

  1. [...] There are alternatives to the Apple TV out there, some of them for less than $299. Here are five. Share This | Sphere | Topic: Featured [...]

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  2. You actually don’t need a media center PC anymore to use the Xbox360 as a media extender. You can use Windows Media Player 11, or the Zune software. The Zune software actually works better because it recognizes AAC audio and mpeg 4 videos right out of the box, and extends them to the 360.

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  3. so the moral of the story is that there isn’t really a truly good option to the apple tv, a lame option in itself.

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  4. I’ll vouch for the Zensonic Z500, great box with the added benefit of a DVD player; I picked it for that very reason, after all why would I want a media extender as a separate box to my DVD player. It also upscales to 1080p via HDMI as well which makes for top notch DVD viewing, and streaming internet radio is always being used in our household. Generally codec compatibility is good, although you do have to unlock the region feature to view everything (a matter of typing a code in)

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    1. I dont think you can upscale to 1080p only 1080i. I am looking for a good way to stream music but it would be nice to not need to have my computer on. So far the PS3 is giving the best options. Only prob its 299.00 and the interface isnt that friendly.

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  5. If you have a Mac and a Xbox 360 you can purchase a cheeky bit of software called Connect360 that turns your Mac into a media extender. It’s pretty cool and very cheap. Highly recommended. http://www.nullriver.com/index/products/connect360 for more info.

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  6. I think the Xbox 360 is the best option.

    I find Media Center more satisfying to use than Apple TV. Plus it does a whole lot more with a better interface.

    A bit more costly, but it’s worth it.

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  7. Let’s see. I have a list of video podcasts checked off in iTunes. They automatically download to my computer. They automatically upload to the Apple TV in my living room.

    After supper, every night, my wife and I decide whether we feel like watching a program from the HiDef DVR or from the Apple TV. One button press on the Harmony Remote and we’re up and running.

    Resolution on the Apple TV is 7% less than half the HD channels currently broadcasting. So far – buster – I can’t see the difference.

    I use one of the standalone HD’s connected to my network in the study to warehouse anything I might want to watch – that takes up a lot of space. Why would I wish to store it on the Apple TV? I just “sync” to move it up to the Apple TV before we want to watch a particular movie, for example.

    Why should I presume you’ve never tried or experimented with an Apple TV, buster? Cripes.

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  8. Alternative 6: Connect your old laptop to your TV and use VNC as your remote. The big advantage of having a general purpose PC as your media box is that you’re not limited to built-in codecs and DRM functions.

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  9. Connect360 for the mac connects your mac with the XBOX 360. You can view WMV, ASF, and MP4 videos on your 360. I use it every now and then at home. You can also stream audio from your iTunes library.

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  10. You shoudl really change the entry about the XBox 360 – any windows PC will connect using Media Player 11 and the Mac can use Connect 360 like the poster said above. You can even stream music behind your games.

    TVersity is a windows program that will transcode DIVX, XVID, etc on the fly so the 360 can stream those formats too- more flexible than the apple TV!

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